Down and out
In recent times motorists have cut down more than $600 000 worth of street lamp posts along the ABC and Spring Garden Highways.
And the darkness created along the roadway as a result of these collisions has been compounded by the failure of highway authorities to replace close to another 200 lights that have stopped working but still stand on erect poles.
MIDWEEK NATION investigations showed up no fewer that 180 poles along the highway that have been destroyed by motorists, with only the bolts and concrete bases remaining to identify where they once stood.
On the Adams section of the ABC Highway, between Grantley Adams International Airport and the Deighton Griffith Secondary School, the loss of lighting was particularly evident, with dark stretches covering as much as 200 metres.
But a major relief effort is being worked out, revealed Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley, and it will involve lighting up the ABC Highway and streets all across the island with more than 25 000 LED lights.
Repeated attempts to reach officials of the Government Electrical Engineering Department (GEED), which has responsibility for maintenance of the lights along the highway, as well as Chief Technical Officer in the Ministry of Transport and Works, Frank Thornhill, were unsuccessful. However, an official at a large private electrical firm that was involved in the installation of lights on the highway during the last major upgrade explained that each pole carrying two lights costs about $5 100, while a pole with a single light could cost about $800 less.
Additionally, another electrical source noted that the high-pressure sodium lights that now illuminate the highway could cost as much as $150 each, although it could not be ascertained if the bulk purchasing usually associated with an entity like the state would result in a lower price.
At these rates it means that if Government were to replace all the light poles and missing lights, it could cost the Treasury more than three-quarters of a million dollars.
Probing by the MIDWEEK NATION also revealed that while most insurance companies appeared to have made provision to cover such costs when their clients were deemed to be responsible, claims by the Government to recover the money seemed to be inconsistent.
An executive at one of the island’s largest insurance companies, Consumers Guaranteed Insurance (CGI), said while he knew some of his clients had been involved in such accidents, he could only recall seeing “one or two claims”.
Chairman of the public relations committee of the General Insurance Association of Barbados, Anton Lovell, said once a car had been identified as damaging a pole, the insurance companies had no problem paying.
“It is a simple process once you identify the car number, because sometimes the car does not stop at the scene but the police would have the information,” Lovell said.
“So those who own the poles, whether it is the Barbados Light & Power, the Ministry of Transport and Works, the telephone company or whoever, they approach the insurance company and we pay.”
Lovell, who is also general manager at Co-operators General Insurance, said he did not see a lot of claims, but gave the assurance that his company would readily cover the cost of the poles and the labour involved in replacing them once all the necessary work was done.
Claims manager of Insurance Corporation of Barbados Limited (ICBL), Ramona Moore-Clarke, said they had seen “quite a few claims”, but could not report on the overall cost to the company.
Trident Insurance’s claims manager Roger Walcott said the company had a clause built into their insurance contracts that dealt with that issue. He said normally Trident saw no more than “one or two claims a year”.
Meanwhile, MIDWEEK NATION research indicated that constant movement of motorists from well lit to dark areas along highways where travel could be at high speed, could contribute to a higher than normal rate of accidents.
As drivers emerge from a dark area “into a pool of light from a streetlight, their pupils quickly constrict to adjust to the brighter light, but as they leave the pool of light the dilation of their pupils to adjust to the dimmer light is much slower, so they are driving with impaired vision. As a person gets older the eye’s recovery speed gets slower, so driving time and distance under impaired vision increases”.
This was supported by ophthalmologist Sherwin Benskin of the Retinal Clinic, who said driving in a well lit area was always safer.
Yesterday, Minister Lashley indicated to the MIDWEEK NATION that relief was on the way. He revealed that Government was involved in a programme with the Inter-American Development Bank to replace all the lights across the country, including on the ABC Highway, with the more energy efficient and brighter LED lights.
He added that a private company had also submitted a proposal for a similar undertaking in a joint private sector/public sector partnership.